The Only Thing Decoupling is Investors and their Money

Johnny Cash once ominously sang “you can run on for a long time” before reminding those whom he considered wicked that sooner or later, they’d be cut down.

US stocks were able to ignore the sovereign debt crises of southern Europe…until they weren’t.  Now your Staples ($SPLS) and your Akamai Networks ($AKAM) are slaves to the macro once more.  The “Decoupling Theory” fails again, just as it did in 2008 when asset prices around the world fell in tandem.

I’m gonna say this one time – Decoupling is a demonstrably false concept in the 21st century global economy.  Sure, there are degrees of correlation but there is no decoupling.  Everybody around the world owns pieces of everything, regardless of borders, currencies, languages or timezones.  The world has been ETF’d, we all reside in a bought-and-sold basket of instruments.  China will eventually succumb to its export customers’ malaise just as surely as US and European exporters will ultimately feel the pinch of a China slowdown.

Russia, Australia, Brazil and Canada may be stronger than their ‘customer nations’ because of their vast raw materials but can they really sustain this strength should the ‘customer nations’ begin demanding less raw material from them?

Nothing is decoupled with anything anymore.  You may tell yourself that your Abercrombie & Fitch ($ANF) shares have no exposure to Spain or Portugal – but if the market decides to blow itself up over Spain and Portugal, Abercrombie’s gonna get slapped around.

By the way, the same principle is in effect on bounces and rallies.  How else to explain the 420 point Dow Jones Industrial Average rally on confirmation of the Euro TARP?  How else to explain the fact that every stock was up, European exposure or not?

So the next time you hear Bob Pisani on CNBC emphasize “Europe’s Close”, as though the closing of their markets is like the ‘all clear’ signal for US stocks to recover, remember that the macro has reasserted its influence on our market.  And this influence doesn’t wane for any market’s closing bell.

Recoupled.  Adjust your expectations accordingly.

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